PM must intervene in DSIP saga

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday February 24th, 2014

 CLAIMS by Morobe community leaders that the O’Neill Government is continuing to withhold the 2013 District Services Improvement Programme (DSIP) funds for Bulolo and the Huon Gulf districts is indeed cause for grave concern.

They say their two districts have received only K3 million each of their K10 million DSIP allocation because their MPs, Sam Basil (Bulolo) and Ross Seymour (Huon Gulf), are in the Opposition.

Basil, who is the Deputy Opposition leader, was vocal about this issue throughout last year and was supported by Opposition leader Belden Namah, who has berated Fi­n­ance Minister James Ma­rape for being “discriminatory and unfair” in the distribution of DSIP funds. Marape had explained in a letter to Namah last year that “the delay in the DSIP funding was due to cash flow and tight management of the deficit budget”.

He had said that he was acting within the requirements of Section 3 of the Public Finance Management Act. “These actions were in no way intended to penalise the members of the opposition.”

Marape said last June that all MPs will have received K10 million each for their respective electorates by the end of 2013.

Was Marape being truthful about the fair disbursement of DSIP funding to all MPs regardless of which side of the parliament chamber they sit on?

Namah and Basil were not convinced at the time by his explanation and continue to doubt the minister’s sincerity.

The latest claim by the community leaders that the Bulolo and Huon Gulf districts are still owed K7 million in DSIP funding seemingly makes a mockery of the explanation by Marape, who is supposedly the Government’s chief financial officer.

Therefore, it is imperative that the Government clarifies this alleged discrepancy between the DSIP amounts received by its MPs and their colleagues in the Opposition.

While we do not think it is a ploy by the ruling coalition to lure any more opposition MPs as they already have more than the absolute majority, the onus is on Marape to ensure that Basil and Seymour get the balance of their 2013 DSIP funding for their districts.

The Government must be mindful that further delays in the disbursement of DSIP funds will not just hurt the Opposition but will severely affect the delivery of vital government goods and services to the people of Bulolo and Huon Gulf.

As their community leaders said last week, their two districts contain some of the most vital National Government infrastructure projects such as the Lae to Nadzab road redevelopment, Nadzab airport redevelopment, Lae tidal basin project, Hidden Valley gold mine and Wafi-Golpu mining project.

The leaders challenged Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to care more about them.

“Our challenge to O’Neill is to be a true people’s prime minister like Sir Michael Somare, who suffered heavy criticism from Basil at the political level but still allowed Bulolo’s DSIP to be released in full when he was the prime minister. The level of criticism against the O’Neill Government by the Opposition is not as hard as the criticism Somare received from Basil but Somare did what was right and that is where O’Neill has failed.”

This statement by community leader Kay Takising implies that the prime minister has failed the people of Bulolo and Huon Gulf by condoning the actions of his finance minister to withhold 2013 DSIP funds for these two districts.

It is obvious that Takising and the other community leaders doubt O’Neill’s sincerity despite the great strides the prime minister has made since he assumed office. 

Furthermore, they believe that former Prime Minister Somare never allowed political differences to get in the way of a fair and equitable distribution of goods and services to the people.

Whatever is the problem at the Finance Department, it would wise of O’Neill to immediately intervene and order the release of the balance of these DSIP funds.

The people of Bulolo and Huon Gulf expect nothing more or less from a Government that professes to be responsible, transparent and accountable.